How very French

Daily flavours (ranging from standards like strawberry and vanilla to the more exotic liquorice and rhubarb, or foie gras and lavender) depended on the fresh ingredients available. For many years it was Berthillon’s habit to get up at 4.30am every day to take delivery of fresh milk, cream and eggs from Normandy or visit the wholesale market at Les Halles (later Rungis). It was also his practice, on Bastille Day (July 14), when Paris begins to get hot and demand for ice cream soars, to shut up shop and take his family on holiday for two months, reopening only in mid-September when the warm weather was almost over: “I am not interested in people who come here during a heatwave. I like them to come when it’s snowing and zero outside. Then they come to enjoy my fine ices and not just to cool themselves.”


And of course
it’s quite delightful to have a sprinkling of such in a country. But when the whole damn economy is run on such lines it can become more than a tad tedious.

Perhaps Tim Newman can do a tasting run for us….in September, of course.

21 comments on “How very French

  1. Oh God, this one again.

    Well, yes, if you put the least productive 5 or 10% of the population on the dole queue then of course your GDP per hour worked will be higher. but wouldn’t you rather have that 5 or 10% working producing things, even inefficiently, that other people could then consume? Rather than having them torch cars out in the banlieues?

  2. But you are complaining about people “in work” taking two months holiday. And yet productivity is still 20% higher than the UK.

    I’ve never heard you before claiming you want an economy where people work inefficiently. Rather I’d have thought you’d want the system changed so that it makes sense for hyper-efficient ice cream vendors to hire someone to make lavender ice cream for the two months in the summer when the boss is on holiday.

  3. I’m not convinced by the French productivity numbers. My colleagues work their arses off in the office, but what they produce is often of little value and has to be completely redone because they lack the discipline and culture to ensure they are working with a complete set of up to date information and somebody is making timely and sensible decisions aimed on at delivering a valuable end product. Half the time is spent in pointless meeting and discussions and heading off in the wrong direction based on flimsy assumptions in lieu of proper, robust decision making.

    Here’s an anecdote about France. Mate of mine came over from the UK last week, had an afternoon train on the Eurostar going back and so decided to dump his bags and wander around town for an hour or so. Except he found the left luggage place in Gard du Nord is closed for lunch between 12 and 1:30, leaving hundreds of tourists just standing about with their bags waiting for it to reopen. And when it did, it was full. Hopeless.

  4. Difference between the French and the Swiss-French: your Swiss-French would absolutely mint it during August and then go and live the winter somewhere warmer.

    For, much to the surprise of many French who come here to live (and have the prejudice that French-speaking CH is just a little provincial annex of La Belle France), the Swiss French are, after all, fundamentally Swiss, and thus more like the Swiss-Germans than they are like the French.

  5. I second what abacab says above. My contract is held in Switzerland and certain aspects of my employment handled by the Swiss and then it’s handed over to the French, either in Paris or elsewhere. The Swiss part runs like, ahem, clockwork. The French part is a complete clusterfuck.

  6. Daily Mail article today on all the horrors and inefficiences of the French economy.

    And yet despite all this their GDP per capita is same as ours & productivity 20% higher (with unemployment “only” 11% to our 6%) so clearly something must be working, And one has to assume GDP figs aren’t that inaccurate.

    Clearly the bits of France that do work must do very well. LVMH, Danone, Axa, Total & Carrefour are, I suspect, keeping the rest of the economy afloat.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2738204/How-Red-Ed-s-bed-hopping-hero-brought-France-knees-The-government-s-collapsed-The-economy-s-moribund-Is-future-Miliband.html

  7. Abcab is right. If the stupid egotistical sod didn’t want to work in the summer, instead of shutting the shop in prob the best earning months, why didn’t he hire and train some staff to keep in going while he was away.

  8. The reason that neo-liberals (!) would give as to why he didn’t train & hire someone to work during the summer is because (I suspect) French employment laws that make it uneconomic to do so.

    But I can’t believe that even if French employment laws are clearly more burdensome than the UK’s that the economics of opening for two months in the summer don’t make sense.

    So I guess Monsieur Berthillon is just, as Tim says, very French.

  9. >For, much to the surprise of many French
    >who come here to live (and have the prejudice
    >that French-speaking CH is just a little provincial
    >annex of La Belle France), the Swiss French

    I had a wonderful few days in that part of Switzerland last year. It is indeed lovely, Swiss, and everything works. Good thing it was on somebody else’s dime, though.

    >are, after all, fundamentally Swiss, and thus
    >more like the Swiss-Germans than they are
    >like the French.

    Even more impressively, the Swiss-Italians are also fundamentally Swiss. These are calm, collected, hyper-efficient people who otherwise appear to be Italian.

  10. Clearly the bits of France that do work must do very well. LVMH, Danone, Axa, Total & Carrefour are, I suspect, keeping the rest of the economy afloat.

    I expect you’re right, but let me assure you that at least one of those companies is a bag of shite and fading fast, propped up only by legacy income from a bygone era when it was good. But then again

  11. We largely make our own ice-cream, except for vanilla where the commercial stuff is very decent, and pistachio where we don’t even try to compete with the best continental examples. But liquorice toffee ice cream, for example, is wonderful and dead easy. Naturally our strawberry ice cream is far, far superior to any we’ve ever bought because we grow tastier strawberry varieties than you can usually buy commercially. Perhaps we’ll try plum this year.

  12. And, contrary to popular belief, I discovered last week that levels of personal taxation can actually be higher in Western CH (including Canton Bern) than they are in France (although this depends on family status). Not to mention out of pocket healthcare costs.

    Apparently, there’s an employer part of the French taxation system that makes the overall taxation burden higher (for which the incidence is of course on the employee but it just appears as a figure on the payslip so they don’t think about it) for those working in France. Cross-border commuters can thus mint it – they benefit from the high CHF and then only pay the employee part and get the cheap health insurance and high healthcare reimbursements from the French system (although Hollande is desperately trying to screw the Transfrontaliers by imposing certain social security taxes which could previously be opted out of, and applying one particular tax to the whole income, whereas for French-employed the tax applies to earned income only and not income from property, dividends etc).

  13. Tim Newman, how do you get away with the stuff you write about the oil industry? (I’m assuming the photo on your blog, at the very least, is accurate)

  14. Edward,

    Firstly I don’t get away with it. I got kicked out of my lady position (but not from the company) because of an article I wrote about Nigeria – after I had left.

    Secondly, I write about stuff which is in the public domain, meaning I don’t use inside information. And I don’t mention my employer, I generally write in a very generic sense about stuff, and on the occasion I write about specifics it is to comment on a public article and one where my employer is not involved.

    Thirdly, I rely on nobody from my employer reading blogs like this one! What I write on blog comments is a bit more than what I say on my own.

    Finally, I couldn’t give two shits if this lot fire me. I have plenty of other options…

  15. Switzerland is what happened when you’re trying to get as far as you can away from the country you came from, all while still within the Swiss border.

  16. That is, they leave their country of origin for whatever reason, want to get as far away from that as they can, and still be within Switzerland.

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